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Holey Swiss: Man Breaks Record in British Downhill Cheese Race

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The champion cheese chaser, brie-umphant. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Some heroes wear capes. Others fling themselves down hills in pursuit of an 8-pound wheel of cheese.

As the BBC reports, a British man has set a record for the most cheeses won in the annual downhill cheese chase that takes place in the English county of Gloucestershire. Chris Anderson has won 22 races in the past 14 years; this year, he won the first and third of the three men’s races.

Anderson said his strategy was to “just run and try and stay on your feet,” according to the Press AssociationFor his efforts, he will get to take home the double Gloucester cheeses that he successfully chased.

Unfortunately, Anderson only likes cheddar.

It is not entirely clear when Gloucestershire’s unusual sporting event, which takes place in the village of Brockworth, first began. According to journalist Fraser McAlpine, the tradition could go back as far as the 15th century, possibly evolving from a “Beltane-style ritual of rolling burning bundles of wood.” In a 2014 article, the BBC reported that the earliest reference to the race was found in an 1826 message to the Gloucester Town Crier, but it seems to have been an established tradition by that point.

The rules of the game are simple: participants must chase a ball of cheese down Cooper’s Hill, which is so steep that it’s practically impossible to run down without tumbling over.

And tumble the contestants do. In 1997, a record 33 participants were injured—some even broke bones. Over his storied athletic career, Anderson has broken his ankle and bruised his kidneys.

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Can you chase a ball of cheese down Cooper’s Hill? (Public Domain)

In 2010, officials cancelled the race due to safety concerns, but rogue fromage fiends have continued to stage the event regardless. The BBC reports that “thousands of spectators” turned out to watch the most recent installment of the games.

This year, the race got dirty—and even weirder than usual. ”[T]he kid next to me was pulling my shirt all the way down,” Anderson told British media. His spotlight was also threatened by an Australian who showed up to the race wearing nothing but a swimsuit stamped with the words “budgie smuggler.”

But ultimately, Anderson prevailed. “I’ve got nothing to prove now,” he said of his record-breaking win, according to the BBC. “I’m happy.”

SMITHSONIAN.COM

Toronto Wolfpack plot financial path to Super League rugby

Toronto Wolfpack's Quentin Laulu-Togaga'eImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionToronto play in the second-tier Championship this season

With the new rugby league season about to kick-off, the sport’s most exotic club is ready to take to the skies again for a campaign of trans-Atlantic battle.

Canadian club Toronto Wolfpack created a stir when they joined the third tier of the English rugby league system last year, as it meant round trips of around 7,000 miles for away games.

The club and its main sponsor, Canadian airline Air Transat, paid – and will do so again this season – for their European opponents’ eight-hour flights to and from Canada for away games against the Wolfpack.

Toronto Wolfpack cheerleadersImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionThe club is looking to boost its presence in Canada and in the UK

After running away with the title last year, the Wolfpack will play in the second-tier Championship league this season, competing against a host of powerful English clubs, plus Toulouse in France.

The club admits it made a financial loss last year, but insists that was expected as part of a longer-term business plan designed to reach the riches of the top tier of rugby league.

‘Right trajectory’

“It is a five year plan to get to the Super League,” the Wolfpack’s general commercial manager Scott Lidbury, an Australian who grew up watching rugby league, tells me.

Toronto Wolfpack's Jonny PownallImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionThe club will face a number of historic and powerful English club sides this season

“We are in year two of that plan, we are in the Championship and things are on the right trajectory. Promotion this year is obviously the goal. We would be disappointed if we did not finish in the top four.”

Coming among the top quartet would give them a chance at promotion via the Qualifiers Super 8s playoffs.

Mr Lidbury adds: “It would not be the end of the world if we did not go up, but we feel confident, particularly with the players we have signed.”

He says if they were not promoted the business can sustain its various outgoings, from travel and stadium hire to player salaries and media operations.

Toronto Wolfpack's Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e (in white)Image copyrightALAMY
Image captionPromotion to the Super League is the club’s sporting and business goal

But promotion to the Super League would bring a huge financial boost in terms of TV rights money from Sky, and more and bigger sponsorship deals.

Last season’s budget was 3.4m Canadian dollars ($2.7m; £2m), and is set to be more this year as the club has moved out seven players from last season, but brought in 10 more.

Centre of excellence

The Wolfpack’s main financial backer is Australian mining tycoon David Argyle, who grew up playing rugby.

“David is 100% in it for the long term,” says Mr Lidbury. “He has a very strong vision, he is a big driver of Toronto as a regional centre of rugby excellence, for both codes.”

Toronto Wolfpack fanImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionThe club wants to increase its number of season-ticket holders

The Wolfpack play their games in blocks of away matches followed by home ones in the summer, to cut down on criss-crossing the Atlantic and also because the harsh Canadian winter extends into the start of the season.

This year they will play 11 away games, then two at home, then two on neutral English grounds, then eight at home.

Chief executive and club founder Eric Perez secured the use of 10,000-seater Lamport Stadium in Toronto, and last year average home gates were a healthy 7,000 (though half of those attending had complimentary tickets).

Eric PerezImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionEric Perez is the founder and chief executive of the Wolfpack

The team wants bigger gates this season, and to boost its 650 season-ticket holders by at least 50%.

A UK-based business development manager has also been appointed to bring in British commercial deals, and to deal with things like new Toronto player registrations and obtaining relevant visas for visiting players.

In addition, the club has now made the Platt Lane Sports Complex in Fallowfield, south Manchester, its full-time UK base.


The case of Barrow Raiders

Barrow RaidersImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBarrow Raiders won the League 1 Cup last season

Each away team can travel free via Air Transat when they play in Toronto; being able to take a full squad, coaches and ancillary staff, at what has been promised by rugby league authorities as no cost.

However, last season Barrow Raiders, which played in Canada twice, found there was a financial price to pay.

It had to pay for things like coach travel to and from the airport, extra baggage, visas for some players at £80 each, and food and drink for 25 players and staff. It cost the club around £4,000 for the regular League One fixture in Canada.

When the teams played again in the Super Eight playoffs in Toronto, fans set up a funding page and raised nearly £3,000 to cover the club’s expenses. And while 30 fans made the trip for the first game, none went for the second.

The clubs will play home and away again in the Championship this season.


‘Major partner’

Principal sponsor Air Transat, signed on a three-year deal, provides 540 airline seats a year, which sees the club fly with 35 people when it visits Europe, and opposition clubs offered 25 free transatlantic return flights.

Air Transat owns Canadian Affair travel website, which offers away team fans weekend packages in Toronto, including hotel and match ticket.

“They are a major partner for us and play a crucial role in our operations,” says Mr Lidbury. “They are the perfect example of a brand who can benefit from association with ourselves.

“Like one of our other major partners, Maple Leaf Diamonds, they are a Canadian brand looking to be stronger in the UK.”

Conversely, the club’s UK sponsors such as Manchester Metropolitan University get coverage in Canada.


A fan’s view: Steve Newcombe, London Broncos Supporters Association

London Broncos (grey/black) v HalifaxImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLondon Broncos play their home games in Ealing, west London

“They knocked us out of the Challenge Cup in London last year, and their visit created a buzz. They are a brash organisation and good luck to them, they wear their hearts on their sleeves.

“They also have healthy crowds at their home games. They will be looking to build fan support not only in Toronto, but among Canadians in the UK.

“I won’t be going to Canada for our away Championship game, but a couple of dozen fans will go to Toronto.

“With the Wolfpack having a major base in Manchester they are buying English-based players who might have gone to other clubs here, and that has caused debate among rugby league fans.”


‘TV revenues’

The Wolfpack has an unusual TV arrangement whereby it films its own home matches and gives the footage free to CBC Online and cable channel Game TV.

Although they lose money on the operation they feel it is vital in generating wider awareness.

“Our goal is to grow our reach, and develop our revenue streams, and broadcast is something we are working on all the time, developing Wolfpack TV platforms,” says Mr Lidbury.

“We hope that in year three we would be able to start driving some TV rights revenues. We believe we have a very bright sporting and business future.”

The sandwich was named after an 18th century earl who didn’t want to take a break from gambling to eat

Born on Nov. 13, 1718, John Montagu was a British diplomat who received his education at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Before that, in 1729, as a 10-year-old boy, he succeeded his grandfather, Edward Montagu, as the Earl of Sandwich.

The title was created in 1660 in recognition of the achievements of Admiral Sir Edward Montagu, who later became Baron Montagu. His great-grandson John served as First Lord of the Admiralty and as Secretary of State for the Northern Department throughout his life and came to be remembered as the man who sponsored Captain James Cook’s exploration voyages, who in exchange named the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) in honor of him. Apparently, he is also the man the famously convenient food is named after.

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

“Sandwich” has referred to meat (or anything of personal preference really) arranged in between slices of bread since the 18th century in Europe.

The practice of placing bread below or around food, or simply using it for scooping something up, has been found in countless cultures predating the 18th century.

John Hamilton Mortimer (1740-1779) – Oil on canvas (from left: Dr. Daniel Solander, Sir Joseph Banks, Captain James Cook, Dr. John Hawkesworth, and John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich)

Digging deep, the first written usage of the English word can be found in Edward Gibbon’s journal, who referred to “bits of cold meat” as a “Sandwich,” yet using it to describe the sandwich we all love today is found in the satirical travel book A Tour to London; Or New Observations on England and its Inhabitants, penned by the French travel writer and observer Pierre-Jean Grosley.

Edward Gibbon was an English historian and writer celebrated for writing The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes.

In this satire, Grosley wrote about John Montagu’s bad gambling habits, among his many other vices, describing him as a relentless gambler. If Montagu was on a streak, he would not leave the table for hours, eating only food brought on request in order to stay alive.

Oftentimes when hungry, he would order his valet to bring slices of meat tucked between two pieces of bread to his table, allowing him to continue playing cards and fill his stomach at the same time, without the need to use a fork. By doing so, he was keeping the cards clean, and not greasy as they inevitably would be if he was to eat the meat with his bare hands.

This habit came to be well known among his gambling friends, so very soon others began to order “the same as Sandwich,” thus giving birth to the “sandwich” much appreciated today.

Salmon Cream Cheese Sandwiches. Author Katrin Morenz from Aachen, Deutschland – CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Eight men, evidently Government contractors, sit around a table smoking and drinking. Author Library of Congress

This story is a bit debatable, considering that Grosley was taking a satirical stance on things when writing his memoirs. There is another story, though, found in the writings of Nicholas A. M. Rodger, Sandwich’s biographer. He states that the commitments Sandwich had to the Navy as First Lord of the Admiralty, serving as the Secretary of State for the Northern Department in the government of George Grenville, meant that the most often than not, he had to eat at his working desk.

In his views, the first “sandwich” and countless after it were probably eaten by the Earl at his work desk due to his lack of time to eat proper aristocratic meals. This theory is a more praise-worthy approach to things.

By Stefan A

ON THIS DAY:NOVEMBER 6

FEATURED EVENT

FEATURED BIOGRAPHY

James Naismith holding a ball and a peach basket, the first basketball equipment.
CANADIAN-AMERICAN ATHLETE AND EDUCATOR
BORN
November 6, 1861

Almonte, Canada

DIED
November 28, 1939 (aged 78)

LawrenceKansas

BORN ON THIS DAY

1970
Ethan Hawke

AMERICAN ACTOR, DIRECTOR, AND NOVELIST
1955
Maria Shriver

AMERICAN TELEVISION JOURNALIST
1948
Glenn Frey

AMERICAN MUSICIAN
1946
Sally Field

AMERICAN ACTRESS
1661
Charles II

KING OF SPAIN

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